Irma Gloria Frey Stevens, 96, died July 12 at her home in Auburn.
The daughter of the Rev. Stephen J. E. Frey and Caroline Fugerer, she was born April 12, 1924, in the parsonage of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Brooklyn, N.Y., where her father was the pastor.
Her later childhood was spent in Clinton, Mass. She graduated from Clinton High School, and was one of a handful of graduates to go to her class’s 70th reunion. Her education continued at Clark University, where she studied German and Romance languages and graduated with the class of 1947, one of the first at the university to include women. In 2017 she was honored at a program “Celebrating 75 Years of Co-ed Clark” as one of the school’s oldest living alumnae.
After college she married a classmate, Allison P. Stevens, and eventually moved to Auburn, where he became principal of Auburn High School and she was a part-time grade school teacher. They had three children and were married for 25 years before divorcing.
An avid reader throughout her life, she returned to the classroom in her 60s and obtained a master’s degree in theology from Assumption College.
Irma also returned to Clark University, this time as an instructor in the American Language and Culture Institute, teaching English language and writing skills to international students. She taught for nearly 30 years, finally retiring at 92, the oldest active instructor associated with the university. Many of her students became friends, and she enjoyed receiving their letters and phone calls from around the world.
She followed her own advice to “write every day,” published several volumes of her poems and frequently participated in poetry readings in the Worcester area. She was also active in study groups on Jungian psychology and the writings of C. S. Lewis.
From childhood, she was a music lover and musician, playing the xylophone and marimba. She performed for churches and civic groups into her 90s. Few grandchildren or other young visitors to her home could escape being invited into the “music room” and given a lesson in elementary marimba technique.
Whenever possible she enjoyed outings to the Maine seashore and to local nature preserves, but her greatest pleasure was derived from backyard gardening and birdwatching at the home she occupied for six decades.
Irma was predeceased by her two sisters, Concordia Masshardt and Ruth Frey.
She is survived by her three children and their spouses, Clark Stevens and Karen Wada of Sierra Madre, Calif.; Dr. Ted Stevens and Deborah Stevens of Virginia Beach, Va.; and Lauren Cullen and Richard Cullen of Litchfield, Me.
Also surviving are her devoted niece and nephew, Carolyn Masshardt and Carl Masshardt, and Carl’s wife, Pam.
Irma had eight grandchildren, now dispersed throughout the country: Emerson Stevens, who faithfully attended her in her final years and was with her at the time of death, and Gwen Stevens; Amanda McMillan and Luke Stevens; and Andrew, Peter, Timothy and Samuel Cullen. She also had one great-grandchild, Lucia Stevens.
The family is grateful for the kindness of several selfless friends who enriched her later years with travel and companionship.
Memorial donations in the name of Irma Stevens may be made to Clark University in Worcester, Mass. (clarku.edu).
A private memorial gathering will be arranged when health and travel conditions permit.